State Board of Education Delays Discussion on Approval of New Native Studies Course Once More

The Texas State Board of Education has once again decided to postpone voting on the approval of an American Indian/Native Studies class, much to the disappointment of its long-standing supporters. The course did not make it onto the agenda for the board’s upcoming meetings next week. Advocates had hoped that the curriculum would be discussed this month, allowing for approval and readiness for statewide adoption in the 2024-25 school year. However, the next opportunity for the board to review the course will not occur until its meeting in June, which would be too late for most schools to include the class in their fall schedules.

Eliza Epstein, co-facilitator of the Ethnic Studies for Texas Schools Coalition, emphasized that this delay is part of the standard process for introducing ethnic studies courses. Meanwhile, the Grand Prairie Independent School District has been conducting a pilot of the Native studies course since 2021. Although the class currently holds innovative course status with the Texas Education Agency, this designation will need to be renewed after the 2024-25 school year. While schools have the option to seek approval from their districts to offer the course, many prefer to wait for official endorsement from the State Board of Education before committing resources.

Former SBOE chair Keven Ellis intended to bring up the Native studies course in the board’s January meeting, but current chair Aaron Kinsey decided not to include it on the agenda, citing the need for more time for members to review its contents. Kinsey clarified that the course is not on the agenda because Native American Studies is already available as an innovative course for any Texas public school system to offer during the 2024-25 school year.

The delay reflects broader trends in Texas education, with increasing support for ethnic studies. While Mexican American and African American studies classes have been approved in previous years, the delay in approving Native studies comes at a time when the SBOE is undergoing ideological shifts. The delay also coincides with debates over how topics like sex and race should be taught in schools, with a majority of the board’s current members identifying as Republican. Despite these challenges, advocates continue to push for the inclusion of Native studies in Texas schools, highlighting the importance of accurately representing indigenous history and culture in education.

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